Meet the White House drugs: Ambien and Provigil


Meet the White House drugs: Ambien and Provigil
Tractors, bales of hay, wooden shipping pallettes being burned in an open fire, people standing around or sitting on folding chairs, all on a road.
French farmers are blocking the A6 highway near Chilly-Mazarin, south of Paris, on January 31, 2024, as they maintain roadblocks on key highways into Paris for a third day. This is part of nationwide protests called by several farmers' unions over pay, tax, and regulations. Convoys of tractors are edging closer to Paris, Lyon, and other strategic locations in France as thousands of protesting farmers appear to ignore warnings of police intervention if they cross red lines laid down by the government. Farmers' unions, unimpressed by concessions offered by President Emmanuel Macron's government, are encouraging their members to fight on for improved pay, less red tape, and protection from foreign competition. (Photo by Michel Stoupak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

What Is the News? What Is the Border Crisis? The Indignity Morning Podcast Investigates

Today's edition of the Indignity Morning Podcast got a little fixated on the lead headline in today's New York Times. Here's a special print preview of our daily audio program:

WHAT IS THE news? The news is what they put in the newspaper. That's why they call it a newspaper.

The lead news story in today's New York Times is "Crisis on Border Dashes Biden Immigration Hopes."

What is the crisis on border, aka the border crisis? Is it a physically observable object? The rest of the top of the front page is occupied by a color photograph with the caption "French farmers keep up protests."

What the French farmers are protesting is not always clear, but there is, indisputably, a photograph of a highway completely filled with parked tractors. Even if you can't say exactly what the protests are about, you can take a picture of the tractor. There are, unquestionably, protests being done by farmers in France.

Is there a photograph of the border crisis? There are three pictures on the inside of the paper.

One is a picture of a large, although not that large, number of Haitian migrants, camped under a highway in Del Rio, Texas, three years ago. One is a photograph of President Joe Biden, walking up the steps of what's presumably Air Force One, with his head bowed a little bit, captioned, "Many voters say they lack confidence that President Biden can effectively address the migrant crisis"—not a photograph of the migrant crisis, but a photograph of someone about whom many people say, presumably when asked, that they have opinions about the hypothetical quality of his response to the migrant crisis.

And then the third photo is a little hard to decipher. It seems to be a picture taken through a bus window, showing the reflection outside the bus window and inside the bus, two people with surgical masks pulled down below their chins. And between this reflected exterior and this dimmed interior, the window itself has an American flag on it. The caption is, "Governor Greg Abbott of Texas"—who is neither one of the two people in the picture—"bused migrants to Democratic-led cities, including New York, last year."

So here we're closing in on the nature of the migrant crisis. When you want to take a picture of the migrant crisis, you take a picture of a publicity stunt by a Republican politician.

But now that the Democratic Party agrees that strong measures must be taken at the border, now that the Democrats are in fact begging Republicans to let them pass strong measures at the border, now that Democratic-identified politicians like our half-wit mayor, Eric Adams, have complained about the crisis, the crisis is, for the purposes of the New York Times, real.

On page A14, there's an update on the story of how House Republicans are continuing their impeachment process against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for, the Times writes, "his handling of the southwestern border."

Three paragraphs later, the Times notes, "Republicans were set to approve the charges in the face of solid opposition from Democrats and an emerging consensus among legal scholars that they have produced no evidence that the Secretary has committed impeachable offenses."

There are no high crimes or misdemeanors on the table, but there is an impeachment underway because of the border crisis.

What is the border crisis? The border crisis is a two-column headline in the New York Times about how there is a border crisis.


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 209: What is the news?

Tom Scocca • Jan 31, 2024


Update: Here Are Some of the Presidential Pep Pills

LAST YEAR, INDIGNITY asked some questions about just what medicine it requires to keep a modern presidency up and running:

No matter how cynical you may be about a public persona, there still is, literally, a human being underneath there somewhere. Usually an elderly human being, nowadays. And yet that human body is out there functioning beyond normal human endurance...

Biden won, and now he's 80 and despite the motivated claims about his feebleness and incapacity, he mostly presents as trim and spry. He's been to Seoul, Madrid, the West Bank, Bali, Hiroshima, Helsinki. He showed up in Kyiv in the middle of the war in Ukraine, by plane and motorcade and
secret midnight train ride.

Biden did have a break in his schedule in the summer of 2022, when he caught Covid. He even had the Paxlovid rebound and had to isolate twice. Six weeks later, though, he was at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, who had kept up her own travel schedule deep into her 80s, under whatever medical support they give a monarch.

Donald Trump likewise caught Covid as president—as an overweight and sedentary person, in the first year of the pandemic, before there were any vaccines. For a day or two, people (reportedly
including Trump) wondered if he might die, and then people scoffed at the obviously faked pictures of him doing work in the hospital. But 10 days after Trump came down with the virus, he was flying to Florida for a rally.

Apparently the Inspector General's office at the Department of Defense had some questions, too. As Reuters put it:

The White House Medical Unit during the Trump administration provided prescription drugs, including controlled substances, to ineligible staff and spent tens of thousands of dollars more on brand-name drugs than what generic equivalents would have cost, a Pentagon report shows...

The unit lacked effective controls to ensure compliance with safety standards, was not subject to oversight by Military Health System leaders, and increased the risk to patient health and safety, the report said.

The report quotes a witness describing how the White House allegedly prepared staff for travel:

Well, before we would get ready for a big overseas trip, one of our requirements was to go ahead and make packets up for the controlled medications. And those would typically be Ambien or Provigil and typically both, right. So we would normally make these packets of Ambien and Provigil, and a lot of times they’d be in like five tablets in a zip‑lock bag. And so traditionally, too, we would hand these out. . . . But a lot of times the senior staff would come by or their staff representatives...would come by the residence clinic to pick it up. And it was very much a, hey, I’m here to pick this up for Ms. X. And the expectation was we just go ahead and pass it out.

Provigil! We'd speculated as much. Elsewhere, the report adds the sedative Sonata, aka zaleplon, to the list of controlled substances the White House was ordering from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now we know a little more about what the executive branch runs on.


EVERY DAY, READERS of Indignity who have previously benefited from the Bluesky-code generosity of other readers of Indignity continue to pay it forward and provide us with codes for the still-beta social network. If you haven’t already gotten a code from us, we have lots of Bluesky codes to share. Email and we will award codes to those who respond, one per reader, first email, first served.


WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of sandwiches from Cook Book of Practical and Tested Baking and Cooking Recipes, by The Ladies Aid of the Lutheran Hospital, published in 1927, now in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Butter thin slices of bread very lightly, sprinkle generously with cheese, press two slices firmly together, cut in half, and toast quickly. Serve at once with coffee. Or toast circular pieces of bread, sprinkle with a thick layer of grated cheese, seasoned with salt and cayenne. Place in shallow pan and set in oven to bake until cheese is melted. Serve at once.

With cookie cutter of fancy shape cut out figure from piece of bread to be used for the top of a bread and butter sandwich. Place the figure cut from the dark bread into the white bread and the white bread figure into the dark bread.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to


Flaming Hydra is now!

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The second printing of 19 FOLK TALES is now available for belated Holiday gift-giving and personal perusal! Huddle up against the cold with a cozy collection of stories, each of which is concise enough to read within the snowy part of a wintry-mix storm.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm Daily. The special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

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